Category Archives: Klynes Road

Building a home in a forest in Tasmania

Looking for a forest

We’d been scouring the internet for forests for sale, applying our standard criteria for new purchases:

  1. Priced under $100,000
  2. Situated 1 hour from an international airport
  3. Situated 1 hour from an international port
  4. Depressed economy with a likelihood of recovery within a decade

We had found two areas of the world that seemed to comply, eastern Canada and southern Tasmania. There were some nice sea- and lake-front properties up near Halifax, where we reasoned that the economy, which has been in a bad way since the crash in fish stocks some decades ago, might recover if global warming caused the North West Passage to open up and container ships started coming ‘over the top’.

On the other hand, we don’t like Canada’s tax laws, but are already subject to Australia’s, so we had a closer look at Tasmania.

Down in the far south of the island state, much of the land facing the d’Entrecasteaux Channel has been (at least theoretically) subdivided into rural plots. Over the last hundred years there have been several attempts to build new bush towns down there, and the councils hold maps with named roads and numbered plots, but development never kicked off and there is no sign of this on the ground. Mainly it’s all unmarked post-logging new-growth forest. However, the plots exist as legal entities and are all owned by somebody, typically by a local resident who bought them up as an investment. Now those residents (or their descendants) are passing away and willing their land to their children. However, Tasmania has moved on and those children don’t want to live on the land, they want to make their fortunes in the big cities on the mainland. Many of these plots are now up for sale, as those children try to cash up and move on.

The d'Entrecasteaux Channel near Hastings

The d’Entrecasteaux Channel near Hastings

Having drawn up a short-list of some half-dozen candidates, we flew to Hobart, hired a car, and spent an enjoyable rainy weekend stomping around in the bush with an obliging agent from Tasmanian Private Realty.

This forest in Cradoc also had pastureland, but needed an access road over swamp land

This forest in Cradoc also had pasture land, but we’d need to build a long access road over swamp land

Nice view from a forest above Franklin, but a little too close to our neighbours, and the trees were a bit scrubby

Nice view from a forest above Franklin, but a little too close to our neighbours, and the trees were a bit scrubby

This property near Hastings was mainly cleared with a half-finished building in it

This property near Hastings was mainly cleared with a half-finished building in it

Somebody planned to build a town above Hastings

Somebody planned to build a town above Hastings

It's at the top of a hill and peat bog

It’s at the top of a hill and mainly peat bog

This property in Surges Bay had been logged too recently and hadn't recovered yet

This property in Surges Bay had been logged too recently and hadn’t recovered yet

At the end of a long but very interesting day, we arrived in Lymington where there were three connected plots for sale. It was almost dark as we clambered around in the damp undergrowth, but we liked what we saw and decided to return again next morning.

A likely-looking advert

A likely-looking advert near Lymington

A good day's hunting

Time to call it a night after a good day’s hunting

We were up bright and early and, after breakfast in the pleasant local town of Cygnet, drove out to Lymington. There was an old logging track that led past Lots 1 and 2, which then petered out before reaching Lot 3. All were for sale. Lot 1 was on the flat with some pasture, Lot 2 sat at the bottom of the hill, and Lot 3 ran up the hill to the top. As was usual with these kinds of plot, there were no fences or border markings of any kind.

From the logging road, Lot 2 is on the left and Lot 3 can be seen in the distance ahead

From the logging road, Lot 2 is on the left and Lot 3 can be seen in the distance ahead

We were drawn to Lot 3. It has the advantage of sitting at the top of the hill at the end of a blind road, so it would be very private. The border with Lot 2 is marked by a winter creek. The other three sides of the square border forestry land, and when I rang the council to see if they had any plans for it, they told me that there it was such a thin inaccessible band that it would never be worth anybody’s while to log there again.

Looks like it was logged about 30 years ago

It looks like this property was logged about 30 years ago

Having a good look around in the undergrowth

Bronwyn has a good look around in the undergrowth

There is a good covering of different trees of different sizes, and the undergrowth is thin enough to allow access to the whole property. The rural zoning means that we can build a house or not, as we feel fit. As a bonus, Copper Alley Bay at the bottom of the hill has moorings for deep-keel yachts, and – as residents – we would be able to put in our own mooring for a minimal fee. The nearest town, Cygnet, has shops and pubs and a hardware store, as well as some nice little restaurants.

We think we’ve found our new home.

Moorings in Copper Alley Bay

Moorings in Copper Alley Bay

We bought a forest

Relaxing here in a clearing, sipping world-class local wine as the sun sets over the blue sea below, I find it hard to believe our luck. We have just bought the forest that stretches for acres all around, but if we need some milk in the morning, we can drive down to the local town in fifteen minutes or, if the mood takes us, we can be at the international airport within the hour.

Indulging in a little light gardening

Indulging in a little light gardening

Our little piece of paradise is in Tasmania, a state that remains largely neglected by tourists and by mainland Australians alike, and yet the lush 68,000 square kilometre island contains some of the most productive land in the southern hemisphere. While the rest of Australia suffers under fifty years of drought, Tasmania not only supplies much of the country’s soft fruit, but also supports a burgeoning and very successful boutique wine industry.

The state largely escaped the Australian property boom and subsequent crash of 2002, and, compared to the rest of the country, land in Tasmania remains cheap and undeveloped. It is true that in recent years, the part of the island closest to the cosmopolitan buzz of mainland Melbourne has undergone something of a metamorphosis, with affluent mainlanders buying up waterside frontage, or giving up their office jobs to start boutique vineyard farm-stays. Later entrepreneurs have since spread out along the coast, with locals scrambling to subdivide and to sell them their previously worthless land.

It is away from these northern areas that today’s bargains are to be found. A year ago, there was still land available on the hills above the capital city of Hobart. Today you should point your car southward, and in only half an hour you will find yourself in the Huon Valley wine region, currently densely thicketed with ‘For Sale’ signs. The larger tracts have been given over to viticulture, but what remains are little pockets of bush, perhaps hard-won fifty years ago, but now often willed to disinterested children who really just want to sell up, split the money, and get back to the city.

Logging is a part of life here, and apart from some rather spectacular National Reserves, there is little standing timber over fifty years old. A typical ‘bush lot’ comprises up to twenty acres of  young gum trees for up to $100,000, a price that could also get you a mere handful of acres of cleared building land with water views. Having done most of our research on Tasmanian Private Realty‘s excellent website, we only needed a single weekend to view our shortlist before settling on fourteen acres sloping gently down towards the sea.

Sold to the happy couple

Sold to the happy couple

Mistress of all she surveys

Mistress of all she surveys

Cygnet is the closest town. It is typical of the area in that it comprises a simple line of a few homes, some local businesses, and three pubs. When we spoke to the new owners of the Top Pub where we were staying, we found that they were renovating the upstairs into a boutique hotel. The nearby Red Velvet Lounge restaurant offered a gourmet menu featuring locally farmed salmon and organic produce, and there was talk of a new deep-water marina close by. These are not the hallmarks of your average bush town, and so it seemed to us that now was the time to buy.

We intend to build a small home in a clearing, but could equally well put up a series of guest lodges. That’s all in the future, though. For the moment, we are content to sit and sip our wine and enjoy the views.

The jetty to our mooring

The jetty to our mooring

Beating the boundaries

We’re about to head off on a sailing adventure, so we popped down to our Tasmanian property to ensure that we’d still be able to locate the boundaries on our return. We’ve replaced our original surveyor’s marks with fresh tape and put in some boundary stakes.

It's very important to know your boundaries

It’s very important to know your boundaries

Following the edges

Following the edges

We also decided on the location of our house, which we intend to be built on a high deck to provide views out over the tree tops. We’re currently considering a round yurt design, so we’ve staked out a ring.

Staking out the foundations.

Staking out the foundations.

While buying stakes and marking tape at the local garden centre, we decided that we might as well do some gardening as well, so we planted some soft fruit.

Raspberry canes

Raspberry canes

May as well plant some more trees!

May as well plant some more trees!

Really, though, the whole idea is to camp out here in complete seclusion, and enjoy the forest.

Breakfast time

Breakfast time